The Colintraive Heritage Booklet

Front Cover:- The Kyles of Bute (copyright
Colintraive Heritage Centre)

The Colintraive Heritage Booklet

This booklet accompanies the displays in the Colintraive Heritage Centre and provides a fuller description for those who wish to find out a little more about the village’s heritage.

A print booklet is available at the centre for a donation to cover costs.

The author of this booklet for the present chooses to be anonymous. The images and information are copyright to the charity Colintraive Village Hall, the authors and the donors who have granted permission for educational use of their work and resources to the Heritage Centre.

Our collection is more extensive than the material shown here. Work is progressing on the production of a catalogue of the images, narrative stories, and the artefacts we hold. Please contact us if you are researching a particular aspect of local history and we will do our best to help you.

List of Figures :- Colintraive Heritage Booklet

  1. The Columban Chapel Ruin at Fearnoch
  2. Plan of the Chapel
  3. View of Eilean Buidhe from the Platform
  4. The Lamonts Raiding Cattle,
  5. The Campbells Charge Down,
  6. Wishing Rock by Loch Riddon
  7. Castle on Eilean Greig 
  8. Eilean Dearg Today. Now called Eilean Greig,
  9. Thatched House at Loch Striven
  10. South Hall House
  11. Lodge and Drive at South Hall
  12. South Hall Estate Plan
  13. Donald McNeil at South Hall Farm
  14. Johnie Maclean at Inverneil Farm
  15. Couston Farm
  16. Ardentraive Farm
  17. The Baxter Brothers at Fearnoch Farm
  18. Ploughing at Ardentraive
  19. Feorline Farm
  20. The Croft at Port an Eilean
  21. An Early Postcard
  22. The Columba at Colintraive Pier
  23. The Waverley, the Last Clyde Paddle Steamer
  24. Passengers on a Local Boat
  25. Archie Clark Ferryman
  26. The first Vehicular Colintraive Ferry
  27. Eilean Fraioch 1 (1957-1963) 
  28. Loch Dunvegan Ferry
  29. John MacLean, The Blacksmith
  30. Map of Milton and Milton Dam
  31. Milton with the Smiddy and the Mill
  32. The Shop at the Pier
  33. Caol Ruadh (Newly Built)
  34. Caol Ruadh Children Besiege the Shop
  35. Midget Submarines in Loch Striven (source unknown)
  36. Practice Landings from Loch Striven (source unknown)
  37. Hay Making, Couston
  38. Hay Making Feornoch
  39. Hay Making Feorline on the Shore
  40. Colintraive Church
  41. South Hall School (Colintraive School)
  42. Sunday School Picnic
  43. Colintraive Players

Neolithic to the Iron Age in Colintraive

Many thousands of years ago, small groups of people began to settle in the Colintraive area. They stayed for a while in one place cleared it of trees and grew crops. When the soil became tired out, they moved on to a fresh site and the cycle began again.

About 4,000 years ago people began to create homes here in Colintraive. The first signs of these people were found in the nearby Clachan (or village) of Glendaruel with the discovery in the 1960s of a large stone cairn and the sites of several round wooden houses.

They left their mark on the landscape. In the field in front of the hotel lies a grass covered cairn. It is a metre high and 12 to 13 metres broad. Several stones with cup shaped markings can be found on the rocky outcrops above the farm at Ardentraive. Ancient stone coffins were discovered and excavated close to South Hall farm.

About 3,000 years ago a fort was built on Eilean Buidhe – the Yellow Island. It lies -to the north of the ferry crossing. The fort is 20 to 25 metres across, with 4 metre thick walls. The stones vitrified and became glassy when the wood used in the construction caught fire.

Christian Settlements in Colintraive

The Columban Chapel

Christianity came to the Scottish island of Iona in 563 CED when Columba founded a monastic school there. By 1,000 AD the faith had spread throughout the west coast, particularly in Cowal, with itinerant monks founding small chapels or kils. Many of these chapels were rebuilt as churches for example at Kilmodan, the chapel of Aedin, in Glendaruel.

You can see the foundations of a small chapel and its surrounding walls just over the small hill to the south of the lay-by on the road leading from Colintraive. A typical Columban site, it is set in a sheltered dell on the edge of oak woods looking out to the Kyles of Bute. To the south of the chapel is a small pool, then used as a tober a bhaistidh or christening well.

Figure 1: – The Columban Chapel at Fearnoch
(Colintraive Heritage Centre).
Figure 2: – A Plan of the ruins of the Columban Chapel
(Source Rennie, E. with permission)

The Deserted Villages of Colintraive

When the chapel was built there were two villages near by which have long since been abandoned. The platforms on which they can be found lie on either side of the ‘new road’, the A866 leading out from Colintraive village.

Above Feorline there are nineteen platforms found over some 41 acres. The larger group is set in the oak wooded hillside to the east of the road and has forty-four platforms spread over 115 acres. On the platforms were timber framed, circular buildings which were used as houses, byres and stores.

Figure 3: – View of Eilean Buidhe from the Hut Platforms (Source:-Colintraive Heritage Centre)

Civil War in the 1600’s in Colintraive

In the middle of the 1600s civil wars broke out in Scotland brought on by religious differences and reinforced by fighting between powerful families seeking to extend their influence. Though much of the fighting took place in the east of the country, the enmities between the McDonalds and the Campbell and Lamont families took devastation and war into Argyll and eventually to Cowal.

On the Cowal peninsula the Lamont families, whose land holdings included Couston and Trouston on Loch Striven, sided with the royalist McDonalds under the Marquis of Montrose. This brought them into conflict with Campbell of Eilean Greig. His lands were situated to the east of Loch Ridden and the Kyles of Bute.

The Battle of the Braes of Glaic -1649

A group of Lamonts, crossing over Loch Striven, raided land belonging to the then small village of Glaic. These villagers appealed to Duncan Campbell in his castle of Eilean Greig for help.

Figure 4: The Lamonts Raiding the Village at Glaic.
(Source:- Kirkhope, J. 1971a with permission)

The Lamonts had their guns and swords with them. They armed themselves, and the fight began. The Campbells fired down from the upper ground on the Lamonts, and the Lamonts fired up from the lower ground on the Campbells. But, as the Campbells were behind the mountain dike, which was pretty high, they were well protected from the fire of the Lamonts. The fire of the Campbell therefore had a deadly effect.

Source :-McKechnie, H. 1938

The Defeat of the Lamonts

The Lamonts were at last obliged to fall towards their boats. The first of them that reached the boats pushed them out and left their friends and comrades to destruction. Those of the latter that could swim threw away their swords and guns, leapt into the water and swam after the boats, expecting that those in the boats would take them on board. But those who were in the boats paid no attention to any of them and being afraid of the bullets they allowed them to drown.’

Source :-McKechnie, H. 1938

The Wishing Rock Colintraive

Figure 5: – The Campbells Charge Down from Glaic (Source, Kirkhope, J. 1971a with permission)

The war between the Campbells and the Lamonts did not stop at that. The Campbells were far too powerful for the Lamonts. They put up gallows at the top of a rock, above Eilean Greig at the side of Loch Ruel, on which they hung many of the Lamonts. Then they threw their bodies from the rock into the loch.

Figure 6: – The Wishing Rock at
Loch Riddon
(Source:-Colintraive Heritage Centre)

Colintraive and the Argyll Rebellion 1695

The Castle on Eilean Greig

There had been a fortress for some time on the island Eilean Dearg. (It is also known as Eilean Greig and One Tree Island. Even though that tree is now longer there). The castle, a Campbell stronghold was held in the 1400s by Campbell of Loch Awe. In the 1600s it was taken into the control of Campbell of Eilean Greig. The land then passed on to Campbell of Southall in the early 1700s.

Archibald Campbell, the Duke of Argyll moved from Bute to the old castle on Eilean Greig where he stored his arms and ammunition. Desperate for support he recruited in Colintraive and several men joined him, (possibly against their will).

Colintraive members of the ‘List of Rebels’ compiled after the rebellion included:

  • Portenelan;- Archibald McIntailor
  • Ardintraive:-Malcolm McAlpine
  • Ardghaldrich;-William McErchar, Archibald McErchar and John Mclean
  • Steilag;- John and Alex. McIlmichel

Source:- Mckechnie, H. (1938)

Figure 7: – The Castle on Eilean Greig (Miller 1971b)

The Impact of the Argyll Rebellion on the Colintraive Area

Both rebel and government armies had marched through Cowal during the rebellion causing the devastation that armies inevitably leave in their wake. In the spring of 1686, the major landowners petitioned the Privy Council for some remission of taxation as

‘The countrey was dispeopled of men, first the late Earle of Argyll and then the King’s forces, and then everie bodie at plesure, pillaged and robbed and neither one farthing of their owne rents not publict dues could be gotten in this conditione.’

McKechnie, H. (1938)
Figure 8: – Eilean Dearg
now known as Eilean Grieg
(Source:- Colintraive Heritage Centre)

Clearance and Change (about 1790)

The Tenant Farms of Colintraive

Most people in Colintraive in the 1700s lived in multi tenanted farms like those described by Thomas Pennant. In 1772 in he wrote

The method of letting a farm is very singular: each is commonly possessed by a number of small tenants who live in houses clustered together so that each farm appears like a little village.

Source:-‘A Tour in Scotland and Voyage to the Hebrides’

Sheep and Depopulation in the Colintraive Area

With the introduction of sheep, times were changing and between 1755 and the 1790s the population of Inverchaolain, the parish which includes Colintraive, almost halved, dropping from 944 to 504. The minister of Inverchaolain, the Reverend Mr Hugh McTavish, surveyed the situation in his ‘.

It has been humorously observed, since flocks of sheep have expelled the droves of cows which formerly were kept in this part of the country, that the district should be called Sheep-all instead of Cowal. This has been owing to a practice, of letting large tracts of ground, to one or two individuals for sheep grazing, which were formerly occupied by eight or ten different tenants.’

Source:-Statistical Account’ of the parish about 1793


The people who had occupied the land moved into the growing industrial towns around Glasgow and the minister optimistically suggested that:

‘Happily, for them, they were mostly removed to the neighbouring towns, where they found sufficient employment, and where many of their children, by advantages of education, have raised themselves up to independence, to become useful members of the community, and a support and comfort to their parents in their old age.

(Source:-Mctavish, H. 1799)

These changes did not come without opposition. The insecurity brought on by the lack of leases or short leases coupled with evictions caused dissention. As a result, the local Commissioners of Supply (controlled by the major landowners) noted in 1750 that in Inverchaolain Parish:

‘Threatenings have been lately emitted by several persons legally removed from their possessions.’

(Source: -Mctavish, H. 1793)

The change from cattle grazing to the pasturing of sheep altered the nature of the land replacing the heather covered hills with grass, partly through the practice of burning the heather in the springtime. All the mountains some years ago, were covered with heath, but many of them now, by being pastured with sheep, are mostly green.’ (Mctavish, H. 1793)

Housing in the 1800’s

‘It was of an oblong shape, about six yards long by three wide and the roof very steep, particularly at one end. The interior was dark and gloomy, for there was neither window nor lattice; and the little light that was admitted through the roof and the door place, was barely sufficient to shew the blackened sides and the slender poles which scarcely supported the roof. There was no chimney; and the draught was therefore so imperfect, that its smoke filled every cranny of the hut.’

Source: -Bowman J. E. (1825)
Figure 9:- The House at Loch Striven
(Source Dr, Grant I.)

The Campbells of South Hall

Colintraive was held by the Campbells of Eilean Greig except for the holdings around Couston, which belonged to the Lamonts. Between 1710 and 1720 General Peter Campbell bought the lands of Achnabreck, Stronafian and Ardachuple and built the mansion house South Hall. His descendants extended the estate over the next two hundred years.

Figure 10 : – South Hall House
(Source:- Colintraive Heritage Centre)

The family had a strong military tradition. General Peter Campbell served with the Duke of Marlborough in France. His nephew, the next laird, fought under the Duke of Cumberland during the Jacobite rebellion of 1745/6 and was a juror at the trial of James of the Glen. The fifth laird, Colonel Duncan Campbell, served in the Crimea and the last laird, Lieut. Colonel E.P. Campbell fought at the Battle of Tel-El-Kebir, the battle that brought British influence on Egypt until the Suez Crisis in 1956. The eldest son, Captain Duncan Campbell was killed in The First World War in Flanders in 1915. There is a memorial to him in Colintraive Church.

The family played their part in the local community.

“On Tuesday evening the school children and their parents were invited to Southall House by Colonel and Mrs Campbell. After tea, the children were brought to the library where a lovely tree, decked with all manner of pleasing and suitable presents, stood. After the tree was disrobed and each one had received a present, the children had games, in which Lieutenant Campbell, who had recently returned from the front and the Misses Campbell took active part.

(Source:-1901 Dunoon Observer, January)

In the middle of the 19th century the estate and its farms remained the focus of the Colintraive economy. Sporting lets also provided income and the Southall moors provided, “As many as 1,600 brace of grouse killed on the estate in one season and 100 to150 brace of black game, mostly blackcock,” (Lumley, J. A.  and Dowell, 1913)

Figure 11: – South Hall Lodge and Drive (Source:- Colintraive Heritage Centre)

The Sale of South Hall:- The Campbells Estate

By the last quarter of the19th century, many of the old estate owners in Argyll could no longer afford the upkeep of their lands. The last laird, Lieut. Colonel E. P. Campbell took the hard decision to sell South Hall Estate. The whole estate was put up for auction in July 1913.

Figure 12: – South Hall Estate in 1913 (Source:- Lumley and Dowell 1913)

Farming 1850 to 1913

The 1851 census lists twelve separate farm tenants with their families and another ten farm worker’s families. In all about 160 men, women and children were occupied in agriculture in Colintraive.

The largest tenanted farm was at Ardentraive, with seventy-six arable acres. It was tenanted by Walter Black, who lived there with his wife and two children. Living in there was a shepherd, a labourer, a milkmaid, and a domestic servant. The farm also employed two other farm servants.

There were two holdings at Upper Altgaltraig. Duncan Brown and his wife and two children farmed ten arable and forty hill acres. At the other farm, a further ten arable and forty hill acres, lived Peter Brown aged eighty-three with his brother, two grown sons, one of whom was a sailor and a daughter and two grandchildren.

South Hall was the home farm. The family were not at home on census day. But, living in the Hall and in two nearby cottages were two servants, a dairy maid, a cattleman, a gardener and his family, a labourer, a ploughman, and his family. Twenty people in all.

By 1913 the number of farms had been reduced to seven. These were all let from the South Hall Estate. The home farm at South Hall was tenanted by Donald Mcneill.

Figure 13: – Donald McNeil and Dogs South Hall Farm
(Source:-Colintraive Heritage Centre)

John McLean was in Glaic, now a single farm unit.

Figure 14: -Johnnie McLean at Inverneil Farm
(Source:-Colintraive Heritage Centre)

The Clarks were in Couston and Ardbeg,

Figure 15: – Couston Farm
(Source:-Colintraive Heritage Centre)

The Simpsons were in Ardentraive.

Figure 16: – Ardentraive 1900
(Source:-Colintraive Heritage Centre)

Andrew McIntyre held Milton and Upper and Lower Altgaltraig,

Figure 17: -Ploughing at
Upper Altgaltraig
(Source:-Colintraive Heritage Centre)

The Baxter family farmed at Fearnoch

Figure 18: – The Baxter Brothers and Border Collie at Fearnoch Farm (Source: Colintraive Heritage Centre)

The McKellar family were in Feorline.

Figure 19: – Feorline Farm
(Source:-Colintraive Heritage Centre)

The Carmichael family tenanted Port an Eilean, one of Argyll’s few crofts.

Figure 20: -The Croft at Port an Eilean

Steamers and Tourism

Steamer services began from Glasgow to the Upper Clyde in the 1820’s. By the 1850’s over 30 steamers regularly served all the Clyde ports, with ‘tourists’ often writing descriptions of their journey.

Yet few scenes exist in the Hebrides of a more romantic character than those which occur in the fairy mazes of the Kyles of Bute, presenting throughout an intricate combination of promontories, rocks, and islands.

Source: – Bowman, J. E. 1825

‘Doon The Water’

The pier at Colintraive opened in about 1850. The village was now on the timetable of the steamers that were on their way to Arran or on the famous ‘Royal Route’ via the Kyles to Ardrishaig.

The steamers brought with them the summer visitors. ‘Doon the Water’ became a popular journey and, of course, sending postcards to friends at home was almost obligatory. Colintraive Hotel had a “Moderate Tariff” and it also offered a Kyles of Bute Coach Tour, affording views of the most charming Highland scenery. The village also had new shop and a post office

Figure 21: – An Early Postcard

By 1900 there were forty six steamers at work in the Firth of Clyde during the summer months. They had capacity to carry more than 52,000 fare paying passengers.

Figure 22: – The Columba at Colintraive Pier

Steamer Traffic After the Second World War

The Second World War stopped all but essential steamer traffic with only the now painted grey Loch Fyne remaining to take the mail to the Kyles villages. When the war was over the Colintraive Pier was in disrepair leading to its closure in1948.

Regular steamer service through the Kyles continued, but they no longer stopped at Colintraive. However, the St Columba slowed down to drop off freight and make a quick transfer to Archie Clark’s boat lying alongside. In 1969 the last regular steamer, the Loch Fyne was withdrawn. Shortly after the ‘new road’ improving access to Tighnabruach opened.

Point to point services became the norm. Passengers now came to Colintraive on the ferry from Weymss Bay to Rothesay, then by bus to Rubodach. Archie Clark, a local resident operated the passenger ferry until the Bute Ferry Company took over in 1950.

British Rail kept up a summer programme of day excursions until the 1990s. Now the last of the paddle steamers, the ‘Waverly’, continues the tradition with a series of excursions during the summer.

Figure 23: – The Waverly, The Last Clyde Paddle Steamer
(Source:-Colintraive Heritage Centre)

The Colintraive Ferry

Caol an t-Snaimh – ‘the narrows of swimming

The name Colintraive is thought to be derived from Caol an t-Snaimh – ‘the narrows of swimming’. A natural crossing point, it was used by drovers moving cattle from Cowal and Bute to lowland markets.

The first recorded mention of a ferry across the Kyle at Colintraive is in 1685. When James Boill who was in Ardentraive, and described as ”ferryor in Caillintraive” lost his herring nets and his boat. The soldiers of the Duke of Argyll may have destroyed these whilst crossing to his castle on Eilean Dearg. (See Maclagan, I. 1997 p.22 for further information)

Couston to Loch Striven Ferry

A ferry at Couston across Loch Striven to Inverchaolain was mentioned about one hundred years later in 1782. Archibald Lamond agreed to build a heather thatched ferryman’s house, sixteen feet by thirty feet, all for £5.5s. The ferry continued until the mid 1850’s when the parish church for Colintraive was still at Inverchaolain. (Source unknown)

Figure 24: -Passengers on a Local Boat
(Source:-Colintraive Heritage Centre)

The New Road

In 1804, John Campbell, laird of South Hall was one of the promoters of a new road from Loch Fyne through Glendaruel to the “Ferry of Cuilintrive” this was “to the great advantage of the numerous fishermen, as well as other inhabitants of these place

Source: – MacLagan, I. (1997, p.23)

When completed this road also increased ferry traffic across to Bute.

The Arrival of a Vehicle Ferry

A proposal for a vehicle ferry was made in 1929 and again in 1938. However, the war intervened, and the project was dropped.

On 1st July 1950, the Bute Ferry Company, owned by Bute Estates, trialled the first 4 car ferry service from Colintraive to Rhubodach. The service opened on the 13th of July. It was a bow loading ex-military landing craft. It replaced the motorboat, skippered by Archie Clark, who became the car ferry skipper. He also held the contract to take the mail between Bute, Colintraive and Tighnabruich. 

Figure 25: -Archie Clark, Ferryman:- (Source:- Colintraive Heritage Centre)
Figure 26: -The First Colintraive Vehicular Ferry:-
(Source:-Colintraive Heritage Centre)
Figure 27: – Eilean Fraioch 1 1957-1963 (Source:-Colintraive Heritage Centre)

The Ferry in Recent Times

In 1969 the Caledonian Steam Packet Company took over the service. from the Bute Ferry Company building new slipways. Shore lighting meant after dark crossings could run, and new ferries allowed the carrying of 10 cars and 60 passengers.

The main road to Colintraive was single track until 1981 with the completion of the ‘new’ road. Ferry traffic has since continued to increase, and the present ferry, Loch Dunvegan can take 36 cars and 200 passengers. Again in 2018 new slipways were built.

Figure 28: – Loch Dunvegan:-
(Source:-Colintraive Heritage Centre)

The Old Village and Milton

In the 1850s through to the turn of the century the centre of the village of Colintraive was just over the Milton Burn bridge from the present hotel, on the site of the present village hall. It included one or two houses, the inn, with a stable and a byre, a shop, the meal mill with its mill dam and importantly the smiddy, the blacksmiths bothy and his croft .

Figure 29 (Source:-Colintraive Heritage Centre )
Figure 30: – Map of Milton and the Mill Dam
Figure 31: – John MacLean, The Last Colintraive Blacksmith
(Source:-Colintraive Heritage Centre )

Changing Colintraive

After the opening of the pier, a small post office and shop were built at the pier head.

Figure 32 : -The Shop at the Pier
(Source:- Colintraive Heritage Centre)

The increase in visitors saw the building in the early 1900s of a new shop and larger post office across the road from the pier. These are now private homes. The hotel or inn was replaced by the present hotel about the 1900s, and later a stable and a coach house, (now the heritage centre) were added.

The steamer service ran daily to Glasgow, reaching it in two and half hours and the mail coach ran, daily, to Glendaruel. The Colintraive hotel ran its own motorboat service and a daily tour coach to Glendaruel, connecting with the steamer service. It later ran tours with its own motor charabancs. The present shop was the tearoom which also acted as the village hall, with regular dances and social evenings often with Gaelic singing.

The smiddy continued to operate between the wars and the blacksmiths bothy and croft remained nearby. In addition to the bothy there were a couple of houses. The mill and the stables became a workshop. All these buildings continued to be used in much the same way until the late1950’s when they were demolished. The present village hall which replaced them opened in August 1960.

The post office by the pier closed in the late 1940s. The shop, then including the post office, continued serving the village until it too closed in the 1990s.

After a few years, the shop and post office reopened in their present position beside the hotel and, with one gap, they have continued to operate there. The bowling green opened in June 1994 and has indoor and outdoor clubs. The community garden on the site of the old mill dam opened in August 2003 after a working visit by the Beech Grove Garden team in June 2003.

New Houses c1900 in Colintraive

The steamers brought opportunities for residential development and large villas began to spring up all along the shores of the Clyde but in Colintraive, it was claimed that

In the Kyles of Bute especially, the demand was greater than the supply. The proprietors there, however, though poor, were proud and would suffer no part of their territory to be invaded by city folk, and accordingly they lost a golden opportunity.’

(Unknown source)

Villas in Colintraive

In the late 1890s Southall estate began to feu land for houses. Building continued and by 1913 over 60 acres had been feued to accommodate the new holiday homes. These included large mansion houses including Caol Ruadh and Dundarroch. The villas known as the “Seven Sisters” at Altgaltraig Point and Ardare, Failte, Cladach, Altavoil and Ardachuidh and were constructed in woodland by the coast.

Caol Ruadh

The largest villa, Caol Ruadh, was clad in Lancashire brick. It was built for the Clyde shipbuilder William Connel in 1898. He sold it in 1907 to Thomas Hinshelwood an oil refiner, paint manufacturer and dry- salter from the city of Glasgow.

Figure 33: -Caol Ruadh Newly Built

Caol Ruadh Becomes a Residential School

On the outbreak of the Second World War the house was requisitioned for evacuated children. Bought by Glasgow Corporation in 1944 it opened in 1945 as a residential school for Glasgow boys aged 8 to 11 often disabled by TB, asthma, or rickets. Their stay gave them the opportunity to enjoy the open air and to live in this grand mansion by the Kyles for 3 to 6 months

Initially the “poor wee souls” came all alone and though on the first few nights, they might cry themselves to sleep many made strong attachments to the school and still return to recall an impressionable part of their childhood – remembering “See this – it’s a’ oors”.

The role of the school continued to develop over the years employing about twenty-five people, many of them local. Environmental studies became the core of the curriculum, integrated with the children’s school programme, and always with the assistance of their own teacher

With the reorganisation of local government and the demise of Strathclyde Regional Council the school closed.

Figure 34: – Caol Ruadh Children Besiege the Shop
(Source:-Glasgow and Herald Newspaper)

War Time in Colintraive

Defence of the Kyles

In the first years of the war German aircraft mined the Kyles of Bute. A naval station was established where the house Craigs now stands. To keep a watch for the enemy a lookout post was set up at the Boathouse. The British navy mined the Kyles again to deter spies or raiding troops from landing there.

About the same time a mock village was built on the northern tip of Bute. This was lit up at night to act as a decoy for the German bombers who were raiding Clyde towns. Fortunately, none arrived.

Training for D Day

Argyll became a training area for the troops about to take part in the D-Day landings the landings. Local people have memories of waking to find tanks lined along the Colintraive road. During these exercises, training groups of soldiers acted as the defenders and the others as the invaders. They would then change over and start the fight again. Landings from landing craft and Churchill tanks disembarked regularly at Braingortan on Loch Striven. Accidents inevitably happened! On one occasion a lorry was driven off the landing craft into deep water which remained unrecoverable until the low tide.

Naval Training in the Colintraive Area

Naval warships, firing from off Arran, used Strone Point for target practice and the house at Inverneil and the farm at Glaic were evacuated. Inverneil was returned intact, but the damaged farm was not tenanted again. After the war, unexploded ordinance was regularly uncovered during ploughing. There may be still many shell fragments buried deep into the heather hillside.

Loch Striven was used as a training area for midget submarines called X-Craft. These were about fifteen metres long and had a crew of three or four. They carried two explosive charges strapped to the side of the hull, designed to be dropped below the target and then exploded. On the 11th of September 1943 six X-Craft left Loch Striven, towed by ‘mother’ submarines. Their mission was to attack the German battleship Tirpitz, which was then at anchor in a Norwegian fiord. The attack was successful, and the Tirpitz was severely damaged, even though only two of the X-Craft reached their target. The officers who were in command of each these submarines were given Victoria Crosses

At the end of the war the mines were detonated by the M.O.D. The school children were taken out of the classroom in case the school was damaged! Some still remember the enormous explosions, the were sheets of water rising in the air and the debris raining down, including dead fish.

Figure 35: – The Midget Submarines Loch Striven (Source:-Dunoon Museum 1939+)
Figure 36: – Landings from Loch Striven (Source:-Dunoon Museum 1939+)

Farming Changes at Colintraive in the 1940’s

By the late 1940’s in Colintraive about twenty people were employed full time in agriculture and at least another dozen workers were part-time. They came over from Ireland to work over the summer cutting bracken and harvesting. The farms practised mixed farming keeping dairy and beef cattle and hill sheep with crops, including hay, turnips, oats, and growing corn for winter feed. Potatoes and milk were also produced, but these were mainly for local consumption.

Horses ploughed the land until the 1940’s, when tractors were introduced . Within ten years the tractors had replaced most of the horses.

Figure 37: – Couston Hay Making with a Tractor
(Source:-Colintraive Heritage Centre)

Farming Today

Times change. Much larger and more efficient agricultural machinery was introduced, and hay silage has replaced all other crops. In common with many other parts of Scotland, farms have amalgamated.

Figure 38: – Haymaking at Fearnoch 1962
(Source:-Colintraive Heritage Centre)
Figure 39: -Hay Making on the Feorline Shore
(Source:- Colintraive Heritage Centre)

There are now just two working farms remaining. These are Ardentraive, which includes Milton, Fearnoch and the Altgaltraigs, and South Hall which incorporates the old farms of Glaic, Newton and Couston

The farm buildings and shepherd’s cottages on Loch Striven, at Trouston, Corrie and Ardbeg are now abandoned.

The farmhouses at Upper and Lower Altgaltraig, Couston, Fearnoch and Port an Eilein became private homes and the outbuildings and sheds were demolished or converted to other uses. The farm at Glaic was severely damaged by shell fire prior to the D Day landings in Normandy. It was demolished following the war and today only the byre ruin remains.

The Church at Colintraive

For centuries, the parish church for Colintraive was at Inverchaolain on the far side of Loch Striven To reach it often involved a wet and windy ferry journey across the Loch from Couston. A church serving Colintraive was needed and in 1840 the new building was opened.

Figure 40 : – Colintraive Church

This church is now linked with Kilmodan in Glendaruel and for now continues to play an active role in the life of the community.

South Hall School, Colintraive

The first school in Colintraive opened at South Hall about 1800 as a single classroom cottage. Shortly afterwards the teacher’s flat was added. There is a double desk from the school in the heritage centre

Figure 41:- South Hall School in Colintraive

The school closed in 1975 and the pupils moved to a new building in the Clachan of Glendaruel. Kilmodan school today provides a significant local resource for pupils, parents, and their communities.

Noted by Daisy Black resident at Upper Altgaltraig

Figure 42: -Sunday School Picnic
(Source-:Colintraive Heritage Centre)
Figure 43: The Colintraive Players
(Source:-Colintraive Heritage Centre)

Sources For the Colintraive Heritage Booklet

Bowman, J. E. (1825) The Highland and Islands; – A Nineteenth Century Tour

Dunoon Observer (1901) Children’s Christmas Party at South Hall January

Dunoon Museum (1939+) Landings from Loch Striven figure 36

Glasgow and Herald Newspaper (?) Tuck Shop to Colintraive Heritage Centre (permission granted for educational use by the Heritage Centre from Scran ID 000-000114-685 for figure 35

Grant, I. F. Dr. Collection, Asset ID: – 38635 at High Highland Life

Grant, W. (1844) ‘Parish of Kilmadan’ in The Statistical Account of Scotland, Vol. 7, pp.672-674 and online at

Kirkhope, J. T. (1971, a) Historical Illustrations in ‘The Destruction of Eilean Dearg Castle: – The Dig on Red Island,’ Scots Magazine, February. Permission granted by the artist to Colintraive Heritage Centre.

Kirkhope, J. T. (1971 b) Historical Illustrations in Miller, H. ‘The Excavation of Eilean Dearg Castle. From Stone Age Man to the Victorians,’ Scots Magazine March. Permission granted by the artist to Colintraive Heritage Centre

Residents. Photographs and postcards copyright donors and Colintraive Heritage Centre.

Lumley, J. A.  and Dowell, Auctioneers and Land Agents (1913) Argyllshire Particulars with Plan of South Hall, Colintraive, Kyles of Bute South Hall Estate Sale Brochure, Argyll Papers.

Mckechnie, H. (1938) ‘The Lamont Clan: – Seven Centuries of Clan History,’ Clan Lamont Society.

MacKinnon, J, (1791-99) ‘Parish of Kilmadan’ in The Statistical Account of Scotland, Vol. 4, pp.337-342 (

MacTavish, H. Rev, (1793?) ‘Parish of Inverchaolain (County of Argyle)’ in Claire, J. (1754-1835) Statistical Account of Scotland, Vol. 5, pp.464-473 (

MacTavish, A. (1843) ‘Parish of Inverchaolain’ in The Statistical Account of Scotland Vol. 7, pp.168-116. Statistical Accounts of Scotland (

McNaughton, A. (1985) Twenty Five Years and More. Colintraive Village Hall, A Short History.

MacLagan, I. (1997) The Piers and ferries of Bute, The Buteshire Natural History Society

Miller, H. (1971 a) ‘The Destruction of Eilean Dearg Castle: – The Dig on Red Island Scots Magazine February  

Miller, H. (1971 b) ‘The Excavation of Eilean Dearg Castle. From Stone Age Man to the Victorians,’ Scots Magazine March

Mowat, C. (197?) ‘The Legend and History of Eilean Dearg’ with a few short notes concerning the History of Colintraive. (Parish Leaflet)

 Pennant, T. (1772) ‘A Tour in Scotland and Voyage to the Hebrides’

Rennie, E.B. (1993) COWAL a Historical Guide Birlinn

Rennie, E. B. Personal Archaeological information from her research in the Cowal area.

Cartographic Sources for the Colintraive Heritage Booklet

Roy, W 1747-55 Military Survey of Scotland (circa 1750) Permission granted for educational use to Colintraive Heritage Centre from the National Library for Scotland/The British Library

Ordnance Survey 1869 (surveyed 1866) Argyllshire, Sheet CLXII. First Edition 6” to the mile map series. Permission granted for educational use to Colintraive Heritage Centre.

Ordnance Survey (2006) Cowal West & Isle of Bute. 1:25,000 Explorer map 362.